Thursday, December 1, 2022

A Few Notes on Treason in the USA

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

This I said to a moderately famous defense lawyer (I got chewed out for saying it, too.):

The Framers were tired of the Crown throwing around charges of treason for simple disagreement. Yet is it reasonable to view Trump's secret meeting with Vladimir Putin as anything but treasonous? I think the definition of “Enemies of the United States” needs updating, now that the USA is involved in global multipolar conflicts that seldom turn into declared wars.

The legal current definition, by precedent, of “Enemies of the United States” requires that an enemy be a nation that the USA has declared war upon. The United States has not declared war on Russia, yet Russia has worked to incite violence in the USA, and to turn US elections – at this time, Russia is no friend. Trump carefully insured there would be only one witness to his secret meeting with Putin (mobster!), so that, at least, cannot be directly prosecuted, but he was impeached for doing Putin's will in Ukraine.

The “corruption of blood” and “forfeiture” clauses are intended to ensure that penalties not be placed on a family of a traitor, yet there is little doubt that Trump's children were complicit in his crimes and would be far less destructive were they not so very rich. The Founders did not, I think, look far enough ahead (perhaps no-one could have) in writing those clauses.

Since the Framers so limited the definition of treason we dance around the concept in law, laying charges of sedition and espionage instead. These have become as problematic as charges of treason in the English monarchy. I am very glad to see the leaders of the Oath Keepers be convicted of seditious conspiracy. Yet both the Espionage and Sedition Acts have been abused, and in the same way as treason charges in Britain. I don't have even suggestions as to how to make this better. It is an area where the rigidity of written law meets the complexity of human character – not only of the criminals, but of the judges and juries as well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The worst thing Elon Musk has done in his life

Yesterday, Elon Musk did possibly the worst thing he has ever done in his life: he has ordered the Twitter administration to stop moderating covid misinformation. Nothing he could do short of starting a war could be more destructive and I am not all that sure that a war, even, would be more destructive. This utterly ends any claim he has towards concern with the future of humanity: he is either incompetent to guide humanity or so careless of humanity that he is willing to allow and encourage the spread of a disabling and sometimes lethal disease.

He wishes he were Heinlein's Delos D. Harriman, The Man Who Sold The Moon, but it seems to me he is closer to the Dr. Baines of James Blish's Black Easter, who hired the black magician Theron Ware to let 48 major demons out of hell for the lulz.

O my people!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Over On Our Sister Blog, a Discussion of Issues of Twitter and Mastodon

First, general issues:

Second, problems of ideology:

Third, practical problems of Mastodon:

Fourth, prospects and reflection:

What I find most discouraging is how short the sections on ideology and prospects are. The problems I am describing are well understood and not complicated, but ideology and unwillingness to commit resources to resolve them stand in the way.

Shadow, and other tweets

  • The shadow behind this election, and every election since the Citizens United election in 2010, is money in the electoral system. Without it, the cranks would be reduced to screaming in corners.
  • The only way they can make Dobbs stick is to disenfranchise women.
  • There do seem to be an awful lot of fash on Mastodon. Pushed into dark corners, but they're there. And the limited filtering tools means you can't entirely shush them.
  • The Democrats pulled off a historic upset. Yay Democrats! But Congress is still balanced on a knife-edge, and the Supreme Court is still dominated by religious fanatics. // Gonna be a rough few years. // Oh, and shout-out to the women and young people who made it happen!
  • Many of the fascists we call idiots are just playing dumb. They’re perfectly competent at taking over things and trashing them.
  • Exactly how does this work? Businesses aren’t going to pay money to be advertising next to Nazi propagandists, even if the House harasses them.
  • Would they rather have smart people who are at least decent if a bit clueless or dumb people who hate them in charge? // American anti-intellectualism is a mighty thing and a mighty stupid thing.
  • Why would blacks vote for a racist party? Well, if one looks at German history, there were Jews who supported the Nazis.
  • I suppose there will be a lot of unhappy men who can’t find girlfriends and wives in Ohio.
  • I wonder if Twitter is even going to last the year. If it just turns into gab or whatever who is going to come here?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


  • Trump’s antisemitism reminds of 19th-century fantasies of repatriating US blacks to Africa. Most US blacks wanted nothing to do with the idea; they were Americans.
  • Covid can cause miscarriages. Damn.
  • To all the people going on about how wonderful throwing tomato juice at a van Gogh was: oh, do shut up. It’s not raising awareness, it’s not persuading anybody who wasn’t already persuaded; it was just a jerk thing to do. So far, these activists have not done irreparable damage to irreplaceable art, but sooner or later someone probably will. Afterwards, the environment will be in just as bad shape and we will have one less beloved piece of art in the world.
  • If the Republicans win, it's going to be Amexit. In ten years, they will have the popularity of the Tories, their leaders will be rich, and the rest of us will be poor.

Brief Note on the Speed of the January 6th Prosecutions

Legal analyst and emeritus UCLA law professor Peter L. Arenella tweets:

Can you imagine working 16-18 hrs every day including mot of your weekends while you partner and kids complain about never seeing you. Becoming a ghost to your family for an extended period of time because you believe your work is a necessary component of the effort to save our democracy. And, then having to listen to “know nothing” TV pundits complain for over a year that the DOJ is doing nothing while you are working like a slave and taking sleep medication at night to stop your brain from going into overdrive so you can get a few hrs of sleep. [etc., etc.] – tweet

I have decided that Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice staff are doing their jobs, but that, for the past three decades, the Democratic leadership did not. For those decades, we needed leaders to stand up and for three decades they didn’t. There were off-ramps. Conceding the presidential election of 2000 and the confirmation of Alito come to mind. In every case the Democratic leadership folded until finally insurrectionists led by Donald Trump built a gibbet outside Congress.

Where was the Nancy Pelosi the January Sixth Committee showed us on video during the years leading up to the insurrection?

Elizabeth Cheney has had huge positive publicity from her prosecution of the inssurectionists in the January 6th committe. But she was one of the arsonists who laid the fire that Donald Trump finally lit. It would be horrible if she parlays this into a Presidential campaign.

There is something badly wrong with our democracy and it was wrong long before the election of Donald Trump.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Brief Snarky Notes on UK Politics

They could let the Scots run the UK. They seem to know what they're doing.

No? Is there no-one the country might rally behind? Anyone? Leaders of vision and courage are now needed - are there any who might emerge?

The problems of the UK are the problems of modern democracy writ large. The US founders, classical republicans all, expected that the country would elect wise far-seeing statesmen to lead the USA. Instead the country was dominated by mechanics and shopkeepers, and the demagoguery was beyond belief. It elected the slaving, genocidal Andrew Jackson, who left the USA in a shambles for generations.

They didn't know. They couldn't know. But we do know. What now?